The Circle by Dave Eggers (Book Review)

The film adaptation of The Circle by Dave Eggers is out today in the US (there’s no current UK release date that I can find. Hmm…). It was directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly & Bill Paxton (R.I.P.). I’ll probably try to go to the film at some point, so will of course review that if I do. For now, here’s my review of the novel…

The Circle by Dave Eggers

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Fast, thrilling and compulsively addictive, The Circle is Dave Eggers’ bestselling novel about our obsession with the internet and where it may lead. When Mae Holland lands her dream job at the world’s most powerful internet company, she has no idea what awaits behind the doors of The Circle…

My Thoughts:

This is one of those books where I loved the concept & agreed with its stance that, basically, the Internet & big corporations (such as the one that Fincher’s The Social Network is about) are evil. Okay, yes – I’m a blogger and I admit that I love to tweet but I’d happily hop into a time machine to go back to the Eighties and live without this sort of technology as I think we were better off without it. The world is a dreadful place & we’re living in an Orwellian dystopia. But we actually brought this all on ourselves, which I think even Orwell didn’t fully foresee. Hell, even Orwell couldn’t predict something as absurd as the rise of the Kardashi-thingies & wannabes! 😉 I blame them for society’s devolution (enabled by the Internet, of course). But back to this book…

I bring up Orwell as The Circle is indeed in a similar vein to 1984. But dystopian novels are more popular than ever and this is yet another of many that come nowhere near that masterpiece. I was pretty disappointed with The Circle overall. I absolutely love this genre and, as I said, I fully agree with this novel’s beliefs so I did expect to thoroughly enjoy it. In fact, I’ve read 14 books so far this year (that’s a lot for me!) and this is possibly my least favorite. Damn. I didn’t expect that.

I found The Circle a bit too long & meandering. It started out okay but, by halfway through, it was becoming a bit of a chore to read as its lead character (Mae Holland, played by Emma Watson in the film) was becoming more and more and MORE unlikable. I think her character is the main problem I had with the novel as I always struggle to enjoy a book when I hate its main character. This can only very occasionally be made up for if the story is exceptionally good but, unfortunately, this isn’t the case with The Circle. I know the book’s whole point is that The Circle (the evil corporation in the story) is almost cult-like and that its believers follow blindly while the reader can see what’s really going on but, ugh, you just want to slap the shit out of Mae and knock some damn sense into her! I suppose Emma Watson is a good choice for the role in the film, though, as she’s seriously starting to get on my tits lately. But I’m hoping that the film will write her character slightly differently and give her some sense.

Well, I plan to check out the movie anyway since I always like to see how novels get adapted. Maybe they can actually improve on the book (it does happen sometimes). I still really like the overall idea behind the novel & its very obvious message even though I don’t think the story and its unlikable lead character do well to convey that message & the seriousness with which we should be taking it. I think I was just hoping for something a little more insightful and less obvious. The Circle doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know and I’m not sure if it was trying to be satirical or not but, if it was, it gave the novel an odd tone that didn’t really work. I prefer my dystopian literature to either be proper satire or full-on bleak, depressing dreariness! The Circle can’t quite decide what it wants to be but I do appreciate its effort to bring further attention to a very important topic we should be taking far more seriously. I think, unfortunately, the satire maybe doesn’t work simply because this book isn’t as exaggerated as Eggers may have originally intended. This story doesn’t feel like a distant future – it feels like it has already happened.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Here’s a trailer for the movie (as is often the case lately, I think it gives too much away):

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Boyhood (2014) Review

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Boyhood (2014)

Directed by Richard Linklater

Starring:
Patricia Arquette
Ellar Coltrane
Lorelei Linklater
Ethan Hawke

Running time: 166 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Boyhood is a 2014 American drama film written and directed by Richard Linklater and starring Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater and Ethan Hawke. The film was shot intermittently over a twelve-year period, as Coltrane grew from childhood to adulthood; filming began in the summer of 2002 and was completed in October 2013.

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My Opinion:

I’ll get straight to the point: This movie is NOT for everyone. Unless you’re already a fan of Richard Linklater’s style, it’s very unlikely that you’ll enjoy this film. This is long (2 hours, 46 minutes). There’s a lot of talking. Not much happens. If you don’t like this type of movie, don’t go to it. Luckily, I saw this movie during the day with only a few other people in the cinema. My poor hubby saw it in the evening in a packed cinema. As soon as the movie ended, all he heard around him was people bitching about the movie. (“That was way too long!” “Nothing happens!” “Who would ever want to sit through that again?!”). This is where the general movie-going public gets on my nerves. Do a little bit of homework before going to a movie! There’s this thing called the Internet where you can find out what a movie is about. And when you looked it up to see the showtimes? Well, guess what: the length of the movie is listed there as well! Shocking, I know. Maybe look on IMDB & see if you like other films the director has done? If you can’t be bothered to do any of these things, either stay home or shut the hell up. Okay – rant over! Maybe I’ll talk about what I actually thought of Boyhood now…

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I went into this movie with very high expectations. I’m a Linklater fan – I love the “Before” films and Dazed & Confused is one of my very favorite movies. To be honest, I was kind of hoping for one of those “life changing” films. Fellow movie bloggers should know what I mean by that – You know how some movies really “move” you and make you want to be a better person & all that shit? Things like The Shawshank Redemption, Cinema Paradiso & WALL-E do that for me. Anyway, I didn’t really get that sort of experience from Boyhood. Watching a boy grow up before your eyes like that is a pretty cool experience, though, and you certainly have to give Linklater credit for taking on such a hugely ambitious project. To make a movie out of 12 years’ worth of filming is a hell of an achievement. Does it all come together as an enjoyable “movie”, though? Maybe not quite. In a way, it’s more of a “social experiment” than a film. As a social experiment, it works & it’s pretty amazing. As a movie, it falls a little bit flat.

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Boyhood is very much like Before Sunrise, etc, with the talking and the improvisation and the feeling that you’re just watching normal people going about their daily lives. The characters don’t work together quite as well as Hawke & Delpy did in the Before films and the banter feels a little less natural than it did in those. Plus, it feels like there’s even less of a “story” in Boyhood. I’m not really going to fault Boyhood for a lack of story, however, as that’s not really the point of the film. As much as I wish it was, life isn’t a movie. It’s filled with long, boring days. It’s how you get through those days and the relationships you have with others that really matters in life. And blah blah, yada yada… We all know this although very few of us choose to “seize the day” and all that (I know I don’t live that way). Boyhood attempts to show us this but, for me personally, it didn’t quite connect with me in the same way other films with a similar theme have.

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Summary:

I don’t feel I’ve done a very good job explaining my feelings in this review. I think Boyhood is very good. It’s unique & a great piece of art. Watching the character of Mason (as well as the real-life Ellar Coltrane & all the other actors in this film including Linklater’s own daughter) literally age 12 years in just under 3 hours is, well, pretty damn special. I did genuinely care about the characters (especially Mason but also his mom, played very well by Patricia Arquette). Boyhood is very much a Richard Linklater film – it’s all about the characters & their relationships. I sounded slightly negative in my review as I KNOW some people will hate this movie if they’re expecting something other than a Linklater film & I suppose I wanted to let those people know what they’d be getting themselves into if they choose to watch this. No, it’s not a movie I’m likely to watch again anytime soon but that’s because it’s not really that type of movie. It’s more of an experience and I’m happy I managed to see it in the cinema. I recommend Boyhood but probably only to Linklater fans and/or those who are interested in filmmaking in any way.

My Rating: 8/10

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